Last week's post talked about how a mediation would work should family members or friends find themselves facing a legal dispute about a loved one's estate. For the right types of probate disputes, mediation can be a cost-effective way of resolving a legal problem quickly and putting a family on the road to reconciliation.
However, mediation is not the only type of alternative dispute resolution practiced in Minnesota, and families should explore other options if they are thinking about trying to keep a probate case out of the courtroom for whatever reason.
For example, parties to probate litigation may want to present their respective cases to an arbitrator or special magistrate. Usually, these people are experienced attorneys or even retired judges who agree to take on cases outside the official court process.
While taking a case to a special magistrate is similar to going to trial, procedures for arbitration are a bit more flexible. An arbitrator's decision can ordinarily be sidestepped, an a case taken to trial, unless the parties agree that the arbitrator will have the final word on the dispute.
Sometimes, it may be to the parties advantage to get a preview of how a judge or jury might handle a case without having to go to the trouble of a full trial or even a lengthy pre-trial discovery process. For example, people can agree that lawyers will summarize their client's cases in the presence of a third party right at the outset of the litigation. This third party can give helpful feedback that may encourage the parties to settle the case before it gets too time-consuming and expensive.
When comes to resolving a dispute outside of the courtroom, families in the Saint Paul area have a lot of options. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and they can and should be discussed with an experienced probate litigation attorney. Furthermore, alternative dispute resolution is not right for all cases.